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LOVE IN THE STRANGEST PLACES
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  Are home exchange holidays the next big dating scene?
                     by Stephanie Olsen

Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet do it in the upcoming romantic comedy "Holiday"  --
but Jen H did it first (and in real life): she met the love of her life while on a home exchange vacation.

With fully one-half of all adult Americans defined as "single", plus a steady increase in the number of leisure trips being taken (up 9% from 2000 to 1.4 billion in 2004), the potential for meeting "Mr. or Ms. Right" on the road is starting to look pretty darn good.

It's not just the very young who are daring enough to find love via home exchange, although success stories in that demographic abound. Take 24-year Hagit, for example, who swapped her apartment in Israel with a friend in Manhattan. Not only did Hagit fall in love with her New York neighbor, but her American friend is still with the man she met in Hagit's neighborhood cafe.

Single baby boomers are hooking up too. Retired airline pilot, Californian Jack W., and Jenifer H. from England, met in the rather unlikely setting of an alpine train in New Zealand. "It was while riding on the train's observation deck, that I stumbled and Jack caught me", explains the retired health psychologist, just back from a romantic 10-day Paris rendezvous with her beau.

Of course, it's not uncommon for people on vacation to meet and fall in love, but home exchange holidays add a special layer of intimacy. M.T. Simon, co-author of The Home Exchange Guide, confirms that the very act of "staying in someone's home, living, shopping, and doing the things residents do also makes for the kinds of personal interaction that is often deeper than just staying in a hotel and visiting tourist attractions. And if the circumstances are right love might blossom too!"

There are many vacation home exchange companies online where people can browse global listings for free. Jenifer's seven-week swap was through The Digsville Home Exchange Club, and it was her first ever exchange. She traded her Suffolk house in England with a couple from Perth, Australia. The adventurous widow said she wanted to spend her 60th birthday somewhere all alone in the outback, rather than have a traditional party.

The host couple's extended family took Jenifer under their wing, which meant she got to visit parts of Western Australia that she said she'd never have found on her own. With her new sense of confidence and self-reliance that traveling single gave her, she even ventured solo to New Zealand for three weeks.

"It was while I was in New Zealand,” Jenifer reminisces fondly, "that – at the ripe old age of 60 – I fell in love..."

Maybe Hollywood really did get it right this time.

About the author:
Stephanie Olsen is a freelance writer who has appeared in in-flight and lifestyle magazines. Currently residing in the island city of St. John's, Canada, she’s lived in various places round the globe and invites you to her home on the web, familylifeabroad.com.